Last week we hypothesized that the Halloween episode of SNL hosted by Jon Hamm would either be the best of the season or the laziest. Hamm, making his third hosting appearance, has already proven to be a go-to, top-notch host, one that brings out the best in the cast and crew. But, on the other hand, what often happens when the show is blessed with a skilled host is that they relax, relying too much on the host’s charm and natural comedic talents (see: Galifiankis, Zach). However, what we were treated to this week was something in between, and something, in hindsight, typical of a third hosting go ’round. During a debut performance the material can often be safe, figuring out if the host has what it takes, a bit of a feeling out process. If that host succeeds, then when he or she comes back for a second stint the crew is energized, knowing that they have someone who will deliver. You could see that confidence, motivation and excitement in Hamm’s second hosting job last winter. But when a host comes back for the three-peat, the crew is now so comfortable and at ease that they’re willing to taking more chances, throwing more caution to the wind. So what you receive is not mainstream yuks and recurring sketches, or weary, unmotivated punchlines and recurring sketches, but a sense of adventure laced with apathy for the viewer. This is what happens when you have a host who no longer needs to prove himself, who has tenure, which is why so many of Alec Baldwin’s shows are peppered with offbeat sketches, some that delight (like last season’s bizarre “Timecrowave“) and some that crash and burn (like “Arizona Evenings” from the same episode). Judging from this past weekend’s show, it seems that Hamm is now in that class.
More: Mustaches, kisses, Rihanna, Star Wars & Sam Kinison! Plus, WHOM did they rip off this week?
First, let’s just get it out of the way and say that Emma Stone, whether or not she had (Easy) A material, was excellent in her first, of hopefully many, SNL hosting gig. Running the gamut from an uninterested sweepstakes winner to Lindsay Lohan to a Ke$ha-like pop-tart to a French hipster to a fixated teen to a hoochie spokesmodel, Stone was pretty flawless. What was written for or around her wasn’t always top-notch, but she was, and we think her debut was even more impressive than that of her BFF Taylor Swift last season, even if that one might have elicited a bigger buzz. Many have compared Stone to Lohan (as happened in the episode itself, and on this blog); let’s hope that she continues on the path of Lohan’s early career, which includes hosting this show many times, BUT then let’s pray that Stone goes left where Lohan turned right, eventually veering totally off the tracks. However, despite her charms, it wasn’t Stone that left us with the greatest impression.
Read on: SNL the new class? Plus, what sketch did they rip off this week???
Well. That was that. We gave SNL the benefit of the doubt after a decent, if lazy, premiere, instead looking forward to the second show of the season as the real test. And, well, they pretty much failed.
As Alan Sepinwall noted in his tweets, it’s a shame that the show totally wasted Bryan Cranston’s immense talent. It’s not that he wasn’t in any sketches. And it’s not that he wasn’t good. He did everything he was asked to do to the best of his abilities. The problem was that the material was just uninspired, whether it was a retread or a weak stab at something original, it was all very stale. If this was them trying, then we’d hate to see them phone it in.
More: At least there was What’s Up With That? We never thought we’d say those words.
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed by since we waved goodbye to Michaela Watkins (we hardly knew ye) and Casey Wilson (probably for the best) and welcomed with skeptical arms the rookies Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad. And it’s sad to report that a year later we’re already saying goodbye to the former of that dynamic young duo. And once again, the changes are sure to raise eyebrows. However, this time around, we don’t have a good theory as to what precipitated the moves.
With Will Forte’s departure two weeks ago the whispers began to circulate and the dominoes began to fall. Except, they really didn’t fall so much as erect themselves next to already firmly planted playing pieces, with Taran Killam (best known from Scrubs), Paul Brittain and Vanessa Bayer from the iO Chicago, and Jay Pharoah, a comedian and talented impressionist, joining the cast, while veterans Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson – rumored to possibly be following Forte out the door – remain (as of press time) at their posts. So it came as a bit of a shock when word got out yesterday that the show had released a cast member, but not one of its established male veterans with s burgeoning film careers (or even Kristen Wiig, who may have already over-stayed her welcome a season or two), but, instead, Slate, who had only put in a season’s worth of work.
Now, if you recall last year’s history lesson on women & SNL, you’ll recall that going into the season with four women (Slate, Pedrad, Wiig & Abby Elliott most recently) was on the high side. In fact, going a whole season with four veteran female cast members is just about as good as it’s ever been on the show. So, with the addition of Bayer, it’s not surprising that SNL & head honcho Lorne Michaels decided to cut loose a lady. It was a numbers game. That we understand. But then why add one in the first place?
Read on: The curious case of Jenny Slate. Also, Jason Sudeikis is the new Ben Affleck.